Age discrimination is a reality on the job market. Research consistently suggests that after 40, and sometimes even in your late thirties, your chances of getting hired start to diminish.
Employers prefer youth over experience, which is an unfortunate reality in a scene where job hopping has become the new normal and nobody stays in a job for more than a few years.
With people regularly getting laid off in “restructurings” you can pretty much expect it to happen to you if you stay in any job for too long. Or maybe we find ourselves stuck in precarious positions at dying companies that we need to get out of. Or we simply want to make more money to keep up with the rising cost of living. Regardless of the scenario, many of us probably going to have to look for work a few more times as we get older. And it’s going to become more and more difficult to find – because we’re getting older.
So, if you want to survive in this Logan’s Run type scenario you might want to think about concealing your age during the job search, and about the things that are likely to give it away. These can include your fashion choices, as well as elements of your application materials.
Of course, you might not want to hide your age. I let my hair go entirely grey in my thirties and haven’t dyed it since. I’m aware of the impact on my appearance. It’s an informed decision, and maybe a bit of a statement on age and the right of women to grow older as we see fit. It also might have caused me to lose out on work in the past. I don’t know. Yes, it’s illegal in Canada to discriminate on the basis of age. But good luck proving it.
If you choose to do something similar and want to stand by a statement, just realize that it might cost you. Literally.
Anyway, here are nine things that make you look old, and maybe even older than you actually are, during the job search.
Fashion and makeup decisions. Obviously, grey hair makes you look older. So can a dated haircut. Your clothes and your makeup can also give away your age and even make you look older than you are. Dark lipstick can make you look older. Ill-fitting clothes and overly sensible shoes can make you look older. If you are having trouble finding a job and think that this might be a factor, seek help from a friend or from fashion blogs.
Bad posture: And stand up straight. Bad posture hunches you over and adds years to your age.
A dated email address. There are a lot of things that could go wrong with your email address. An AOL address is a clear sign that you’re older since no one has gotten one of those for years. Hotmail and Yahoo! aren’t much better. Another indicator of advanced age is a username that is an attempt to be clever or funny rather than being just a name. This is the sort of thing people did when email was still a novelty (you know, like firstname.lastname@example.org) but that nobody does anymore. Also, addresses that include more than one person, like email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Get yourself a Gmail address and just use your name. If it’s taken, find a variation that isn’t silly.
Two phone numbers. People only have one phone number now, their cell phone. Landlines are for old people.
The “objective” statement in your resume. The “objective” statement, in which one lists their career goals, is passé. Nobody does that anymore. It’s usually replaced by a summary or bio in which you state who you are and what you bring to the table. You only have a very brief amount of time to grab the reader’s attention, so we no longer waste this top space boring the hiring manager with our career goals. Having an objective makes it look like you learned to write a resume quite a while ago.
Two spaces after a period. People were once taught to put two space after a period. This was when we used typewriters. We’re not taught that anymore and haven’t been since word processing became the status quo. Putting two spaces after a period makes you look older. Because typewriters.
Not properly updating your online presence. You know who has not much of an online presence? Your great-grandmother. Younger people use social media, have websites, and interact online. Older people often do less of this. That being said, a lot of very active Facebook users are cresting 50 by now, and the kids these days won’t go near that site. It’s for their parents. They prefer Instagram. Keeping up with social media is hard. Still, maintain your LinkedIn profile and try to keep your online presence up to date.
“More than 20 years of experience in….” Be careful of statements like this. To have more than 20 years of experience you probably have to be at least in or near your forties. And, while that should be a good thing, employers will often think that’s too old.
The date of your education. If you graduated in the class of 1986, you should probably just list your degree and discipline. Leave off the dates.
Ageism isn’t a fun reality but it’s a reality. As the population continues to age and we need to find ways to sustain ourselves, this will hopefully change.
In the meantime, we might have to play the game to pay the bills.